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Orangevango 05-10-2009 07:07 PM

Planning, scheming, questioning my own sanity. (HERMS)
Looking at this site and all of these sexy HERM systems has made me start to itch for one of my own, but, being the way I am, I can not bring myself to stick with convention, especialy when I think I can do it better. So over the weekend, Ive started scheming.

HLT: Standard 15 gallon SS pot with a drain on the bottom, propane fired, located on a higher platform than the MLT and Kettle to allow filling of the mash tun by gravity.

MLT: 10 gallon gatorade cooler with a stainless braid manifold. The lid will have 2 holes drilled in it, a hole for the return manifold/sparge arm and a hole for the temperature probe. The return manifold (a ring of copper tube with holes drilled in it to evenly distribute the wort/sparge water) will be attached to the lid in such a way that I can slide it up and down, depending on the mash volume.

Kettle: A propane fired 15 gallon SS pot with a drain and a heat exchanger coil (preferably SS as well) to be used for mash recirculation. The heat exchanger would come through the wall near the bottom and at about the 5 gallon mark, it would be 25-30 feet in total length. I will make an insulative wrap and lid that I can use during the mash and remove during the boil.

Electric heater: A 120v 2000 watt water heater element should suffice(please correct me if I am wrong here, it only needs to be able to maintain about 5 gallons of water at my mash temp). I will attach it to a clip of some sort that will suspend it in the kettle, it will be controlled by the temperature probe. I will need to make some type of water proof housing for the electrical bits.

Temperature probe/Controller: I am in the dark about these, All I know is I want the Probe to take a reading from the mash tun and cycle the electric heating element on and off. Please make me some recomendations

Pump: March Pump

  • Measure out 5 gallons of water (more if more than 5 gallons of sparge water will be used) and put it into the Kettle, turn on the burner to warm up to mash (not strike) temperature.
  • Put strike water in HLT and turn on the burner to warm up to strike temperature.
  • When strike temperature is reached, mash in. Connect the pump to the MLT outlet and the inlet of the heat exchanger coil (HEC).
  • Attach a hose from the HEC outlet to the wort return manifold.
  • Turn on temperature probe and put electric heating element into kettle.
  • The mash will self regulate, constantly recirculating. The temperature probe in the mash will turn on the Electric heating element if the mash temperature drops below target and it will turn off the element when target is attained.
  • In the last ten minutes or so of the mash, turn off the pump and electric heating element
  • Disconnect the pump from the MLT and the HEC and reconnect it to the kettle's spigot, pump the hot water from the kettle to the HLT and turn on burner to raise it to sparge temps, if needed.
  • remove the temperature probe, water heater element, and insulative blanket
  • Run off the mash into the kettle and sparge, commence the boil.
  • Empty the MLT and give it a quick rinse.
  • When the boil is done, fill the MLT with solution of PBW and ice, attach the pump the to spigot and to the HEC inlet. Attach the HEC outlet to the wort return manifold and turn on the pump to recirculate the ice cold PBW solution to both chill the wort and clean the coil, pump, and lines.
  • put any dirty misc equipment (spoons, sample jars, whatever) into the mash tun to be cleaned after you give them a quick rinse.
  • When the wort is chilled, drain into the sanitized fermentor.
  • pitch the yeast
  • clean the kettle.
  • collapse.

What do you guys think of it? My main concern is that I will end up having to run a 240 volt line out to the brew shed, which I really dont want to do.

airbalancer 05-10-2009 07:28 PM

Wouldnt it be less work to put the HEX in the HLT and heat your strike water directly in the MLT?

The Pol 05-10-2009 07:56 PM

Couple things. Your main concern here is not running 240VAC to the shed...

You do NOT want to use a manifiod at the top of the MLT to return the HERMS recirc. wort. For the first few minutes it is full of grain and husks and such, it will clog easily. Use a 1/2" full ported return line if you can.

You do NOT want to use measure the MLT temp. and have that control your HEX coil. This has been discussed to death, but basically it does not allow you the level of control that you think you are going to have. You DO want to measure the temp. of the wort as it leaves the HEX (HERMS coil). That will allow you good temp. control.

If you measure the temp in the mash, who is to say that the probe isnt in a cold spot. So the controller ramps up the HERMS temp to some crazy degree (beause the controller has no idea how hot it is) and you lose all temp control.

Why set up the HERMS coil in the kettle? You have a steaming hot kettle fo water in the HLT, using anything else seems wasteful. You are adding extra steps and extra pumping for seemingly no reason at all.

If you use anything over 1650W, you will need to have some sort of Love controller or PID/SSR combo to switch that amp load. Even with 2000W you can get that with 120VAC, you will need something that can switch 17A though.

Going back to the whole temp probe in the MLT. How will your temp controller know when the mash has reached the correct temp? Doesnt this depend entirely on WHERE the probe is located? If it is at the top where the freshly heated wort is returning, it will turn off the element immediately. If it is in the middle, it will turn off the element when the middle is warmed up. If it is at the bottom, it will turn off when the bottom reaches the target temp, while the top of the mash is overheated.

HERMS and RIMS 101... measure your temperature at the heat exchanger OUTLET, and no where else. Trust me, you do not want to "go against the grain" where that is concerned.

Most of the HERMS systems you see on HBT here, are very very well thought out and very efficient. Id say that they are nearly impossible to beat.

Also FWIW, I use PBW a lot and it seems to clean much better hot than it does cold.

The Pol 05-10-2009 08:10 PM

Here is what I would do... EXAMPLE 5.5 gallon batch.

Heat 9.5 gallons in the HLT to strike +10F (175F)

Transfer the strike water to the MLT to prehreat it

When it cools to STRIKE temp, mash in (165F and 154F after mash in)

Add one gallon 70F water to the HLT to equalize the temp. at MLT target temp. +4F (158F)

Begin the recirc.

After 60 mins, turn the HLT up to 174F, while recirculating

Come back in 20 minutes to a mashed out mash, and an HLT at 174F for sparge

Swap ONE hose from the MLT and place it on the HLT, begin sparge

Tada... done. It is simple and effective, my eff. never wavers from 82%, it makes for very mundane brew sessions.

BTW this is how I run my system, it is VERY easy and extremely time and energy efficient. With my E-HLT and E-BK I can do a brew session with a 100 minute boil for $1.28 in electricity costs!

Orangevango 05-10-2009 09:51 PM

I had no idea that I should be measuring the outlet temperature, not the mash temperature as a whole, thanks for clueing me in.

I have a question, could I use an immersion chiller as both my HEX and my chiller, just switch it from the HLT to the kettle? (this is an idea I had earlier for a cheap-ass HERMS)

I really like the idea of an integrated SS chiller coil/hex in my kettle, to me it would be worth the extra step of pumping the hot water into the hlt for the sparge.

I really dont get how you mounted the electic heating element into your cooler, could you give me a link?

The Pol 05-10-2009 10:10 PM

You can use an immersion chiller as a HERMS HEX coil and as an IC in the boil.

I have my element in my HLT, if you are using stainless for the HLT, I explain that in my Electric HERMS conversion thread.

You just drill a hole, stick the element through using the supplied seal and use a 1" straight thread SS nut from Bargain Brew Fitting Home Page

Catt22 05-11-2009 02:35 AM

I'm wondering why people continue to build HERMS systems. Seems that the wave of the future is with steam injection mashing. You supposedly get much faster step times and have better control of the temps. The steam systems look to be much simpler to build and operate. Somewhat off topic, I know, but thought it might be of interest:


Actually, I kind of surprised that everyone hasn't switched over to using steam instead of the more problematic RIMS & HERMS rigs.

The Pol 05-11-2009 02:41 AM

I didnt realize HERMS was problematic.

Also, I dont understand how anything is much easier than HERMS... I mean in HERMS you use all of the same equipment as you do with any other brew system, you just add a coil to the HLT to pump the wort through.

I personally like the HERMS for the wort clarity too, as one benefit.

Stepping is easy with an infusion from the HLT, but how often does anyone step mash with todays malts?

Some people dont like the extra equipment with steam... steam isnt a set it and forget it sort of thing from the systems I have seen. Not to mention superheated steam under pressure isnt entirely friendly.

HERMS you can set a temp and walk away. You have excellent wort clarity, it uses one more piece of equipment, a coil. There isnt a separate pressurized steam creating vessel. HERMS you can set and it will maintain a temp with no intervention for hours, days... Mashing out with HERMS again is set and forget.

HERMS can step too... just ask that Seveneer dude, he does it in like 10 minutes, and with a HERMS, it is automated. Set and forget.

Catt22 05-11-2009 03:03 AM

What's the big deal about clear wort? The batch sparge guys don't seem to have any problems with their beer and they only recirculate minimally from what I understand. Clear wort does not equal clear beer. I think that has been pretty well documented.

The problematic reference was to slow temp increases for step mashing/mash out with most HERMS. I know you can supplement with infusions for the steps, but then why bother with the rest of it if you do that. It would seem a cooler would work as well.

The steam injection guys seem to have developed a superior method. I suppose you could do a continuous recirc with steam injection to achieve the same wort clarity if desired. Even a manual recirc should get you there without much effort. The HERMS just seems to be needlessly complex vs. the straightforward steam injection.

The Pol 05-11-2009 03:07 AM

What is so complex with HERMS? It is a SINGLE COIL in the HLT. I dont see that as complex at all.

I think steam is great... but to say that HERMS is complex is silly. To say that RIMS or HERMS is problematic, I think is silly too. They are cheaply built and automated... like anything, people build what fits thier needs. The needs of some differ from that of others... thus we have different methods.

The OP I am sure wouold appreciate some discussion on the simplicity of steam injection. From the conversation he is looking for something simple and cheap. So if steam fits the bill, I am sure he would appreciate the details on equipment and cost.

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